What I wish someone told me about youth ministry…

What I wish someone told me about youth ministry…before I started.

1. It’s very emotional, unlike any other job. You’ll experience the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows.

2. It’s very messy, and always will be as long as you work with people who are just as imperfect and sinful as you are.

3. It’s constantly changing. Youth culture never stays the same from year to year, and neither do the kids, values, nor worldviews. Youth ministry must always morph along with it. As soon as you think you have a handle on it, think again.

4. It requires strong vision casting. Any leadership position does, but leadership in youth ministry does especially. Your leaders, teens, parents, church and community all depend on it.

5. Don’t think you need to do it all. In fact, the ministry is healthier when you enable others to serve instead of taking responsibility for every youth event, trip, fundraiser, small group, idea, and strategy that furthers the vision.

6. No matter what people at your new church say, don’t make deep rooted changes in the ministry until after two years of building trust and respect.

7. Live a life that is above reproach in everything. Eventually even “little things” will come to light and you will be held to a higher level of accountability for it (and rightly so).

8. Kids really don’t care how “cool” you are or how well you know scripture as much as they care about how much you love them as individuals, not as a group.

9. Have a firm grasp on what your values are in ministry and make sure they’re are aligned with a church’s written and unwritten values before accepting a paid youth ministry position there.

10. Don’t be too discouraged if you don’t see results and life-change take place right away. Sometimes it takes years, and even then you won’t always hear about it.

What do you wish someone would’ve told you about youth ministry before you got started? We’d all love to hear it in the comments below.

Posted on April 13, 2009

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  • Johnny Derouen

    This is excellent, Tim. Thank you for sharing this with others. Johnny Derouen

  • 1) Success in ministry is not solely determined by one's godliness. I was taught that if I really trusted Jesus, then God would bless my ministry and I would have a big church.
    2) Success in ministry is not solely measured by the size of one's congregation. While size does matter, it's not the only thing. Perhaps some people have greater capacities for ministry, relationships and leadership than others. If that is the case, then maybe success means exceeding our capacities through trusting God, but shouldn't necessarily be compared to others, as if ministry were some sort of one up or tinkling contest.
    3) Gathering a crowd really isn't all that hard. Just do something crazy, but legal and within the boundaries set forth by the New Testament, and people will show up just to see the show. For now, I'll not comment on whether or not that (bait and switch events) is a good thing. Examples: 400 kids show up for a free all you can eat pizza thing, 550 kids show up for a $5, 8 hour lock in that has video games, TV smash, inflatables, all you can eat food including pizza, and mechanical bull. My friend, Sean Chandler, recently put on one of these events "Christmas Chaos"@ HCBC in Hutto, TX.
    4) Following Jesus is hard but church should be easy. It seems that we may have it completely backwards with our total buy in of Willow, Saddleback, NorthPointe, seeker driven models. Alan Hirsch has written on this quite a bit. See him for more.

  • Well Tim, this is just what I needed. I have just recently stepped back up as the head youth leader at my church. It's good to get back to the basics and stay focused on what God has called us to do.


    • Sweet, Jason! Glad to hear you're stepping up in your church. I'm sure NoFearYear is gonna rock their worlds. :-)

  • PJ.

    1) no matter what, there will be people who will have something against you; but always those who are willing to stand for you!
    2) parents are your best friends. Although busy, they're always interested and willing to pray.
    3) connecting with kids will be a constant struggle. keep at it.
    4) youth ministry is just as much as a ministry to adults as kids.
    5) there's always something else to do; choose wisely.

    • Oh, #5 is a great one. Definitely wish someone told me that before I started in youth ministry.

  • Eric

    I wish someone had told me that I could opt out of social security, lol. Seriously, I wish someone would have told me to plan time to be in God's Word. Sounds basic and simple, but after 7 years in ministry I find it very easy to plan, search, coordinate, and all the other stuff trying to get our ministry "ahead" and spend little time working on my own relationship with God. Make God a priority would be my advice.

  • Gman
  • Great thoughts! A couple that I might add would be…

    1. A youth ministry doesn't revolve around you.
    2. Take care of yourself (physically, emotionally, and spiritually) and your family.

  • two of my favorite tips:
    1) Rules without relationships breeds rebellion (from Josh McDowell)
    2) A reader is not always a leader….but a leader is always a reader.

  • 1. You ARE replaceable. After a few years of being gone very few people will even realize you are gone.

    2. Remember you are the youth leader/pastor/director, not the Savior. Leave that position to Jesus.

    3. Be ready for ANYTHING!

  • Amy Smith

    1. That the youth in my group would be like my second family.
    2. That I would sometimes be more worried about what event I'm gonna do with the youth than with my own family.
    3. It can be very overwhelming.
    4. It can be very rewarding.
    5. You will experience life changes in kids.
    6. It all worth it, when you are doing what God has called you to do.
    7. Don't give up and quit, when the going gets tuff. Keep your head up and serve God :)

  • I've been a manager and executive for 30 plus years. I can tell you from experiences good and bad that these same "I wish I had knowns …." – especially number 9 – apply in the business world. Nothing worse than signing on with a company and finding out that their value structure is so radically different than yours that you can barely get out of bed to report for work!

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